Friday, 22 August 2008

The Tenderness of Wolves - Stef Penney

I read this book with one of our library book groups at Westbourne Library. I must admit it was rather late in the day, as it won the Costa in 2006. This book had a very mixed reaction. Whilst we felt that it was amazing that she could write so convincingly about a place she had never been, we all felt that many of the situations in this book were very far fetched, and as such we were unable to suspend belief. For example, would an older woman have been able to survive the punishing journeys across the Canadian Tundra? Stefs style of writing we all agreed was very good, we enjoyed her storytelling but I think what irritated us most was all the loose ends and side alleys that we were led into, There were so many characters and sub-plots that the whole novel seemed rather incoherent and although it is more true to real life the number of sub plots that were never resolved or explained at the end was largely unsatisfying. Good book for a reading group though, we talked for over an hour, without a break!

Illegally Dead - David Wishart

I have read all of David Wishart books and found them great fun. This book is no exception. If you want a quick fun murder mystery set in Ancient Rome then this book is for you. I really enjoyed this one, although, I have preferred some of the others better. The off the wall humour seems to be increasing, in a very Terry Pratchett way. I loved the reference to celebrity chefs!

The Bellini Card - Jason Goodwin

I am a big fan of Jason Goodwin's. This is his third novel featuring Yashim the Eunuch. See my reviews of the others below. In this novel he goes to Venice. The main thrust of the story centres around his friend the Polish Ambassador, Palewski. The old emperor has died and Yashim is engaged to find a missing painting. Again we have delicious cooking to make our mouths water, wonderful travel descriptions, and hilarious episodes as we watch Palewski enmesh himself in more and more trouble in Venice. A charming and enjoyable read!

It would be great if ther were some maps inside the covers, then we can plot the journeys and murders!!

Mr Pip - Lloyd Jones

This is a great reading group book. I am amazed that I knew nothing of this war that took place in 1991 in Bougainville. This book made me look it up.

Here we have book is a true indictment of war and the inhumanity that comes from it. It is almost a book within a book as we follow Mathilda and her school being taught by the only white person left on the Island. They are taught unconventionally and rather surreally through Great Expectation by Dickens. I think it certainly helps if you have read that book as it makes much more sense of what is happening.

A recurring theme in this book is about prejudice, and this is expertly handled by Lloyd as the novel progresses.

It is also a novel about empowerment. When the mothers come to class to give their lectures on, gutting fish, the colour blue or mat weaving you can see the strength of story telling and a shared experience. Mr Watts through his telling of Great Expectations empowers them all, including himself and inspires Matilda to academic heights and ultimately knowledge of who she truly is. A very simple but powerful little book.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Victoria Vanishes - Christopher Fowler

I read this in a couple of days, I always know I will have a good read with one of Christopher's books.. This is the 6th outing for elderly detectives Bryant and May.These are such interesting books, quirky , clever, off the wall and fascinating. I love the humour that pops up and bites you, there were several real laugh out loud moments, many other wry smiles. This humour is black, wicked and thoroughly engaging.

Above all for anyone who has lived or worked in London they are a total education. I lived and worked in London for 8 years and I have learnt things I absolutely never knew about the city. After this book I wonder how many organised pub crawls there will be around London!

I love the idea that crimes can be solved by lateral thinking, by arcane knowledge, by instinct, rather than by the book, the host of characters Christopher produces are wonderful, even down to Crippen the cat! Oh and as for our lamented, departed pathologist's ashes! You will just have to read it, even better start at the first and read the lot!

The book ends on an enigmatic note, I can't say more without spoilers, is this the last book? Please no!!!!!!

Christopher Fowler has his own BLOG on

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Fabric of Sin - Phil Rickman

I am a big fan of Phil Rickman, having read all his novels including those written as Will Kingdom! I do like a scare but also an intelligent one. These Merrily Watkins novels just get better. They are very hard to place genre wise. They are not horror, but spooky, they are crime but our heroine rarely solves them herself!
The Rev Merrily Watkins is a female vicar and the Diocesan Exorcist, sorry Deliverance Consultant, she has a teenage daughter who is a pagan, and a former rockstar as a lover. Through the books the personal story of Merrily has progressed from the traumatised widow to where she is today. The conspiracy theories are all clever and believable, even in this plot that includes Masons, Knights Templar and the Duchy of Cornwall. Phil has the capacity to encapsulate isolated village living and then crank up the tension until you have a book that you cannot put down. I am also pleased that the supernatural element has been included as it adds that extra spice!